Note: Shabbat candles are supposed to be lit before sundown, generally 18-22 minutes before actual sunset. (In Jerusalem and select other locations, this extends to about 40 minutes.) At candlelighting, the restrictions of Shabbat are supposed to be upon you/your household. So technically, you have those extra 18 minutes or so to keep doing “weekday things” like showering or cooking or driving. But when the sun’s done, so are you.  

Cross-posted at Aliyah By Accident.

Gila’s note: Let us start by saying that we have nothing but admiration and respect for Jamie Geller, the doyenne of Joy of Kosher and its associated media. There need to be people like Jamie in the world – if everyone were harried flower-less people like us, the world would collapse in a great black hole of snark. Also it would be very, very messy. But while we aspire to one day have a holy, Shabbat-infused week like Jamie’s, in the meantime, here’s how it’s going for us…

Kate’s note: Gila and I have been discussing co-writing a post for a LONG time, but Jamie’s explanation about her Shabbat-infused (and very tidy!) week is the one that finally brought us together. So props to the kosher lifestyle guru for that.

Seriously, though, Jamie deserves our open-mouthed head shake of “I don’t know how she does it!” because she’s clearly hit upon something. She’s built an empire based on food and frumkeit, with a huge following. Maybe she’s inspired people to try Shabbat or keeping kosher for themselves, which is great.

But these two members of the hoi polloi have built a friendship on snark, so we all have to keep falling back on our strengths. AS ONE DOES.


Here are the authors slacking on a long-ago Thursday evening, instead of being in the kitchen. We assume Shabbat got made anyway.

JG: Our entire week revolves around the holy Shabbos. It is the glue that holds the Jewish family together. It is a physical and spiritual recharge and the only reason we work for 6 days. Shabbos in our house is so beloved and so cherished that we make sure to do a little something in honor of and in preparation for Shabbos each and every day of the week. I alluded to this on my July 21st Q & A Thursday Facebook Live video and promised I’d write down my schedule for you in a bit more detail. So here it goes. 

Gila: My entire week, too, revolves around Shabbat. Usually because it takes until Friday to finally put away the tablecloth, throw out the leftovers (goodbye, lone two pieces of broccoli) and wipe down the challah board. Also, all week long Shabbat is on my mind. I’m like, Oh god, Shabbat. And He’s like, yes, I know, I created it, remember? So then I go, but it’s like, 25 hours, and the kids are all here, the whole time, and there’s mess and preparation and more mess and fighting! Actual punching! And insults! Also whining! SO MUCH WHINING. They can’t even sit at the table without reaching defcon 10 levels of whining. Then sometimes they whine while punching and insulting!!!! What were You thinking? Did You have kids when You thought up this grand idea? And then God’s like, No, not really, I was just kind of tired out from you now, CREATING THE ENTIRE WORLD and figured I deserved, like one day of rest. So stop being all, oh woe is me, kids, work, mess, oy oy oy. I had spent all of Thursday putting together cockroaches so I think a day off is not too much to ask.

Fine, God, you win; we’ll have Shabbat. [Now, please understand, I do like the idea of Shabbat. The resting and recharging bit. The togetherness. The unplugged-ness. But, just like “Come on kids, let’s bake something!”or “This is going to be an organized drawer for office and school supplies” it’s an idea that works better in theory, at least for me, right now.]

Kate: Don’t get me wrong, I am Shabbat’s Number 1 fan. Way back to my first semester in college, when I credit it with literally saving my life. Because that was the one day I couldn’t have panic attacks over writing up chem labs.

It’s still very nice all these years later. (Many years. I am old.)  There is reading time. And game time! And napping! (Which, of course, means that I get to start off the week with rip-roaring insomnia on Saturday night. THE BEST!) Friends, sometimes, when I can get my act together. And food. Lovely food. Usually even made fresh – sometimes from the freezer. Almost never takeout, because it offends my sensibilities to pay through the nose for SCHNITZEL and WHITE RICE (though it’s magically delicious, presumably from something like MSG).

And there is the weekly Shabbat fight between my children, when they are instructed to play together during Grownup Naptime. One objects; the other objects to the objection; everyone cries. It’s magical. Just last week we started a new project, where the one who demurs allows the other to accrue points that will be cashed in for special treats. It’s like extortion, but holy, because SHABBAT and NAPPING.

Saturday Night/Motzei Shabbos: The Table

JG: We put a fresh white tablecloth on the Shabbos table and place flowers down the center. Now don’t freak, but I’m a (good quality!) fake flowers girl — always in bloom, they brighten my table all week long.  

Gila: Saturday night: Thank God we survived another Shabbat. Where is the ice cream and TV? I am overcome by the urge to sell my children. Or maybe just pay someone to take them all and return them when they’re decent humans. I, too, like to put something down to brighten my dining room table all week long. Sadly, my bed + Netflix-that-works-in-Israel + Ben & Jerry’s is really asking a lot of my slightly sagging table. Plus the ice cream would just melt. So we just leave Shabbat crap on the table. That, too, is always in bloom.

Kate: In the dead of winter, when Shabbat goes out super early, we clean up enough to use a corner of the island and sometimes make pizza from scratch. At all other times, bedtime was five minutes before Shabbat was over; we wrangle the kids into bed (after more food filched from the fridge, because obviously there was not enough during the day). If we’ve had guests, we push the tablecloth to one end of the table, because we almost never eat dinner as a family during the week (I KNOW), so we only need room for maximum three people. If we haven’t had guests, we use wooden placemats, so these get stacked, sort of, and left at one end of the table.

Sunday: Menu Planning

JG: We plan the menu. Literally fresh off of Shabbos we will often decide to repeat faves from last week, reach back into the archives for oldies but goodies, and try something new — usually in the form of some recipe I have to test for the site or magazine. The menu gets taped to the kitchen cabinet (along with our weekly dinner menu — the kids simply must know what they’re eating when) and the week is off to a great start.  

Gila: Sunday night: Still recovering from Shabbat cleanup. Begin week-long efforts to beg children to do the jobs I pay them for (emptying dishwasher and folding towels). “But the Shabbat dishwasher is soooooo much!” she whines. See, the kids are thinking about Shabbat all week long, too!

Kate: Leftovers for dinner! Feeling the shabbat love! Especially since the beautiful wood challah board is still gracing the table.

Monday: Shopping Lists  

JG: We create a list of all the ingredients we need separated into categories much in the same way the supermarket is organized — fresh fruits and veg, shelf stable grocery items, frozen foods, etc. We often have multiple lists organized by location. So the butcher or fish store each have their own list. The more specialty fruits and veg will be on the fruit shop list, there could be a list for the health food store, and so on. (Oh and usually this is the night when we eat Shabbos leftovers for dinner, if there are any).  

Gila: This is where Jamie and I are samesy-samesy! I also do shopping on Monday. Well, I schedule my online shopping order to come Monday afternoon. I also make sure to get “specialty” fruits and vegetables like “apples and potatoes.” Whatever I can’t order online can’t be worth having is my shopping motto. Luckily the website organizes everything by section just like Jamie so we can continue being samesies. The difference is, that this shopping cart is only for the weekly food; Monday is wayyyy too early to think about Shabbat, unless during some clear lapse of judgment I invited people for Shabbat in advance. In that case I may throw in some vaguely Shabbat-related menu items to my online cart. If I’m feeling perky I’ll put something “interesting” in my cart to make a new and exciting food item. I’ll then carefully place it in the bottom drawer of my pantry to gather dust with the other “interesting” ingredients that were purchased during similarly perky/what was I thinking moments. (“Here you go, broad beans, come join your friends coconut milk and Worcestershire sauce.”) (Oh, and usually this is the night no one wants any leftovers anyway so I make a totally new thing they can all complain about).

Also the cleaners came today so for about 30 seconds the house was sparkling.

Kate: I ALSO tend to shop Mondays. But it’s way too early to think about the following Shabbat. Sometimes I try to end-run this by buying vegetables that are hardy, like beets and kohlrabi, but I never know what I am going to WANT to eat on Friday/Saturday so many days before. Also there’s a chance that we might be invited out. (More on this later.) I am honestly too busy worrying about what my kids will eat for the many days before Shabbat. My 12-year-old (a girl, just to break stereotype) will eat anything not nailed down, assuming she likes it.

If there are still leftovers, any mention of them to the kids in the context of dinner is met with a swift “I am NOT eating leftovers.” I usually am sick of them too, so they go to my long-suffering husband, who is not fussy.

Tuesday: Shop and Cook 

JG: On Tuesdays we shop for the non perishables and I actually cook anything I plan to make in bulk and freeze. I usually have some project or another — whether I’m making 100 carrot muffins, 10 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 25 quarts of soup, meatballs, kugels, cupcakes, brisket and more. Now mind you I don’t make them all on the same day but my crazy, busy, insane in the membrane schedule necessitates that I am able to pull some food from my freezer on any given Shabbos — especially when we find ourselves entertaining at the last minute.  

Gila: Tuesday. Ahhh. The last day before I have to start planning for Shabbat. The non-perishables Jamie mentions (mine arrived yesterday, slacker!) are marinating nicely on the floor in their shopping bags. See, eventually, groceries → meals, so they can go straight from bag to stove without the pesky middle step of pantry.


Shhh, the groceries are resting.

Kate: We will not ruin the holiness of Tuesday (coffee) and the pa’amaim ki tov by discussing the work involved with making Shabbat. (My groceries are very tired from being hauled upstairs on Monday. Resting on the floor, right in front of the pantry. Did I mention we don’t have an elevator?) Challah board still on the table. It’s glorious.

Wednesday: Set the Table

JG: By Wednesday night we set the table for Shabbos. We do have the luxury of having a kitchen table where we eat all our weekday meals and hang out as a family. So the Shabbos table is reserved especially for Shabbos and that makes me happy. We do a full set — just in case Shabbos comes early we will be ready!

Gila: Wednesday: AHHHHH IT’S WEDNESDAY I HAVE TO START THINKING ABOUT SHABBAT! By Wednesday night my table is completely covered in crap art projects, scissors just within reach of the 2 year old twins, an empty Band-Aids box, a board game someone took out last Shabbat to fight over and never put away (see, there we go again, Shabbat on the brain all week long!),  a library book we’ll be looking frantically for later, and a cup of water that spilled but no one can see it because of the art projects so it is slowly meandering around the table and down the side and probably onto something important, like the library book. (We like to have strategically placed cups of water all over the house for easily spillage, no matter where you are). I grudgingly make a half-assed menu for Shabbat (Friday night – soup, chicken, salad. For the day – cholent and salad and whatever else I can cook easily and with resentment). I pretend I’m making a menu when really I make the same damn thing every week because omg who has time to cook new things???? [See aforementioned “interesting” ingredients and their dust-gathering properties.] Also, everyone just groans anyway!


Here it the Wednesday table, in all its glory. Oh look, the packet of math tools my 6 year old will need for first grade in a few weeks is out there, all alone. Can’t wait to be desperately turning the house upside down looking for it!

Kate: Still waiting to be invited. Why does nobody return invite us? Nobody likes us? What’s wrong with us? (I exaggerate. We get invited out.) Grudgingly admit I need to get off my tush, but oh, wait, there’s something on TV. Ask my husband what he wants to eat. He’s not fussy (see above), which seems helpful but sometimes it’s not helpful, you know? From time to time, I throw caution to the wind and ask my children for their thoughts, which leads to discussions like: “I want lemon chicken!” “Ema (tears in voice), you know I can’t stand lemon chicken. You can’t make me eat it! I won’t!”


This past Wednesday my table was so empty I thought it was End Times. (Nope, just kids out for many hours every day at camp. Also a new and very shrill regime of “Clear your damn dishes; I am not your maid.” Coffee cup is mine.)

Thursday: Cook, Bake, Challah Dough

JG: The bulk of the cooking and baking is done on Thursday with the exception of challah. We make the challah dough on Thursday and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Gila: Samesies again! I also like to do most of the cooking and baking on Thursday, mainly because I need Fridays to clean, which takes the entire f-ing day. Entire. So the cooking has to get done as much as possible on Thursday. I also save the challah for Friday, in the form of picking it up at the bakery. If the bakery wants to make the dough on Thursday to let it rise, good on them. (I feel like I’m getting angrier as the week goes on, does anyone else feel that?)

Also Thursday night we usually always have time for Mommy Seriously Loses Her Shit at Everyone: the Extra Large version.

Kate: Sometimes I start things, especially if we have plans for Friday AND I’ve already gone to the butcher. But sometimes I am tired. Insomnia is not just for Saturday nights, you know. Or I have other things to do. Like work. Or Facebook. Or a makeup Pilates class.

(NB: In America, I was much more together, and cooked and baked on Wednesday night and Thursday night, because Friday wasn’t the weekend.)

Also on Thursdays I often have more awesome conversations with my kids, like: “Ema, can we make challah this week?” “Uh, no, I don’t think so.” “BUT WHY?” (From time to time the answer is yes, but never often enough.)

Once (ONCE!) we got an invite on a Thursday. From Israelis, of course. It was the best week ever. Like a midnight pardon from the governor.

Friday: Shop, Shape, Bake + Fresh Salads

JG: By 8 am Hubby is already home from the center of town with all my final fresh goodies. This is when we prep any salads and make fruit platters.  

By about 1 pm on Friday the kitchen is closed. The kids have had lunch. I’ve finished cooking, save for some challahs (already shaped) that may still be waiting for their turn in the oven and “the dishes are done man” (extra points if you know where that line is from!). We are now ready to mop the floors – which we do every week in honor of Shabbos. Showers start, beds are made and we are often ready a few hours before candle lighting.   

I absolutely loathe the feeling of rushing into Shabbos all “farmisht” which is Yiddish for crazy frazzled. This weekly plan helps us stay sane but more importantly it reminds us of our purpose in life — each and every day.

Gila: Let me begin with: I do not actually know what it’s like to go into shabbat NOT being all farmisht. Crazy frazzled, it’s like, kind of my thing.

Oh, Fridays. My nemesis. I will say that we ALSO have fresh salads. Often the lettuce comes pre-washed from a bag but it STILL COUNTS. And we have fruit platters, in the form of “here are some grapes in a bowl.” Also I ALSO mope (haha freudian typo! I meant mop, obvi. Or did I?) the floors every week! Oh, Jamie. Practically sisters!

Friday is when I wrangle the kids to help in the Big Cleanup. Every Friday it’s like Groundhog’s Day, like they’ve never been asked to clean up before in their lives. Here is what happens in our household, every single week: “OK guys, time to clean up.” Kids, resembling early man when he was first introduced to fire, stare around in confusion and a little fear at this totally brand-new concept. “But what should we do?” they wonder. Gee, I don’t know, those pieces of garbage on the floor? How about the GARBAGE CAN? Oh and the toy cars? Maybe the car drawer, WHERE THEY HAVE LIVED FOR YEARS. The full set of dishes and cutlery that accumulates on our floor every day? LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO THE SINK.

Usually this ends with stomping (me) and screaming (me) and throwing (me, again) until they finally do their jobs, moaning like you’d think I was asking them to disembowel themselves with a spork or conclusively determine who killed JFK or  watch the season finale of How I Met Your Mother on repeat.

Then I finish scrubbing, wiping, sweeping, washing, and yelling. (“The kids have had lunch??” Who in the actual f-ing f serves lunch on a Friday? My kids are lucky if I remembered to buy some borekas at the bakery in the morning or if there’s leftover pasta from one of our many many pasta nights. “I’m hungryyyy” they whine. “Eat a damn yogurt” I snap. Snapping is my only mode on a Friday.)

“Beds are made!” Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Hahahahah! Sorry, still getting over made beds.

“We are often ready a few hours before candlelighting” – we are often always using up those 18 minutes like we’re my kids and the 18 minutes are the last of the blue sour sticks. Savoring them until they are gone. (God, you knew what you were doing with those 18 minutes, thanks from all of us except Jamie). The magical thing about us is that it doesn’t matter – summer, winter, Shabbat is late, early – we are ALWAYS rushing. The 18 minutes is when I shower, will my blowdryer to work faster, scream at the kids to set the table (“But it’s not fair because plates and napkins [one job] is more/less work than silverware [second job]” – see it doesn’t really matter if one job is actually more work than the other they will complain about it anyway), yell at my husband about something (topic TBD) and take one glimpse around the now-clean house which in seconds will be full of challah crumbs, spilled grape juice, puzzle pieces (the twins do puzzles by throwing pieces all over the floor) and lots of dishtowels. Why are dishtowels all over the floor? I do not know.


When you’re showering in the 18 minutes, good water pressure is key.

Kate: Oh, Fridays. The love-hate day. There are three choices:

  • Cook and clean all day
  • Laze around for half the day (facilitated by my kids conveying themselves to/from school – yay big kids!), then freak out for half the day about not being able to finish the cook and clean in half a day.
  • Do most things on Thursday, then have an actual weekend-type day topped off by total panic for 90 minutes before Shabbat, doing all the “tiny, last-minute things” we couldn’t do beforehand.

Sadly, Friday is not a peaceful oasis before the peaceful oasis of Shabbat, largely because there are so many people in Israel trying to achieve the same thing. Squad goals, you know, of making it through the grocery stores and long list of other errands before most places close on Friday (between 2 and 4 in the afternoon). So I am unclear what stores Mr. Jamie Geller is going to. Are they magic stores with no lines and no people paying by check? With big, empty parking lots waiting to receive your vehicle? Because the rule around here is pretty much if you need it on Friday you send a kid on foot (what else do they have to do? Whine about chores that they’re refusing to do?) or take from a friend – NOT enter the dragon’s mouth wearing flammable pajamas.

Except for the bakery, to buy challah. (See: Thursday.) And more milk, because we somehow never have the right amount.

By 1pm on Friday, my kids have sometimes had lunch – it depends on how quickly they hop to their very, very difficult chores, like putting away the stack of their laundry (this is extremely difficult, like landing a perfect vault) or emptying the bathroom trashes (the hard part of this, surprisingly, is putting in a new bag – you wouldn’t think so, but I’m here to report it first-hand). Sometimes we up the cruelty by requiring them to FOLD laundry before they put it away. Sometimes TWO LOADS. If they knew the number of social services, they would call it, because this request is beyond the beyond. My daughter will object to just about anything easy I offer her for lunch (“Noooooo!!! Not yogurt!!!!”), so we often patronize the local falafel place for Friday lunch. You can feel the holiness setting in! Shabbat shalom to you, Ofer Falafel!

Also: My children will eat all the livelong day, and we have an open plan, so the kitchen is literally never closed.

Cooking can only begin once all the pareve dishes from the week are washed. (hahahahahaha! lolsob.)

Cooking then creates more dishes. And bickering, to go with the dirty dishes. It’s a big dish conspiracy that also kind of prevents me from cleaning anything else in my house. The bedroom floors are…not a priority. But on the flip side, we have pretty good immune systems.

Cleaning is nobody’s favorite, as I remind everyone in my house who says “But I haaaaate cleaning!” “Right,” I say, “nobody likes it. Except Savta.” So we push it off until the last minute, cut corners, and still wind up fighting and pissed off because we are going to be late. I mean, I do, because I hate being late for anything. (The Gellers really don’t know what they’re missing. I don’t know why they want to pass up on this kind of bonding time.)

Showering. Yes. We do that. It usually involves jockeying for position, because nobody wants to be first, for reasons I can’t fathom. More time to stew in your own filth? Yay?

Mopping. YES. This happens. I, however, suck at it, so it’s my husband’s job, unless he’s away or sick. But he and I have different, um, views on how time works. So I go, “Ok, shul is in an hour, don’t you think you should mop the floor and get in the shower?” And he goes, “Do you see how well I’m doing in Candy Crush? And then I have to take my turn in Words with Friends – your mom is beating me by 50 points.” Or he takes a work phone call or five. So at a certain point I just cloister myself in the shower and realize he is a grown up, and nobody ever died from being 20 minutes late to shul. (I mean, that I know of. I err on the side of caution and panic.)

Ok, I have to ask, in all honesty, what’s the point of being showered (and dressed, presumably) and ready a few hours before Shabbat? Is there a photo shoot every Friday? What’s the point of having Shabbat leisure before Shabbat? Doesn’t it detract from the actual exhalation of being able to breathe, finally, when you’ve reached the finish line? If shabbat is at 6, and you’re done at 3, then you’re missing out on some heart-pounding adrenaline. I mean, come on, the 18 minutes are there for a reason.

If there’s an extra five minutes, my slaves (kids) set the table, sort of; it depends on how closely they are supervised (read: yelled at). The challah board gets to come back to the table! Finally! A couple of days in sad isolation is PLENTY.

And then we get to return to the peaceful bubble again. Or the plain bubble. You know, the place without troubles or cares. Or computers. Yay!

Thank you for reading our very long Homage to the Holy. We wish you the best, whether you’re going to be feasting on deli from the package or the finest, long-planned, hand-carved, slow-cooked morsels.

Shabbat shalom!


Hi! I’m still here!

My sanity is…debatable.

Miss M turned 12, and we had 120 people for dinner to celebrate.


Actually, it started last summer, when I said something incredibly stupid, like, “For the bat mitzvah, Miss M should make 12 pieces of art, then we should auction them off for charity at a gala dinner. We will make it nice enough to justify the grandparents schlepping over from America.”

And nobody with some sense thought to stop me and my gigantic mouth.

(System failure!)

So that’s pretty much what happened. Miss M learned her Torah portion and commentaries in-depth, created art pieces, wrote explanations of them in Hebrew and English, picked charities, and there you have it. EASY PEASY. (Hahaha, plus dozens of sleepless nights. And speeches!)

We of course hired an event planner because I still don’t know how to say “easel” in Hebrew, never mind having a clue where or how to rent ELEVEN of them for one night. She also herded us through a catering crisis and a billion other things.


My takeaway is that three detail-oriented people on one project makes for a beautifully micromanaged event, but if I never have to answer my phone or return a related email again I would be ok with that.

Anyway, it was a big enough thing that I had hair and makeup and wore heels. It was nice.


Then we squired our American visitors around for a few more days for some sightseeing in Jerusalem and Tzipori. Then we had a big Shabbat do (more food! more speeches!) at our synagogue and had 13 relatives over for meals.

Then I legit had jet lag, trying to recover. Did not matter that I hadn’t been on a plane – I needed midday naps and freezer meals to get through dinner.

I’m better now.


Phase: Next

I am one of those people who loves the Facebook “On This Day” app. I find it funny and nostalgic, although the further back it goes the more I apparently vaguebooked. (In the days before restricted lists, I suppose.)

So a few days ago, Facebook served me a message from someone who wrote on my wall in 2009. (We met in third grade, but haven’t seen each other in at least 25 years.)

fb prompt

So I saw this and nearly doubled over laughing. Because this sweet little girl, who now has two younger sisters, has made it all the way to being a tween. Her parents have (based on the pictures and posts) experienced some lovely times with her.

And soon, God willing, she will be consumed by, as we (read: Miss M) call it around here, The Puberty.

But back to being 3 1/2. Did I angst about this on Facebook? How did Brian know that I had tips? Because at this point AM had just turned 3. (Where tips would mean referrals to Ask Moxie.)

And I am curious as to what I would say. Or did say. (Pinky swear, I have not yet searched my message archives.)

Because now that I’ve done this twice, I would probably just advise to lay in the coping mechanisms of choice (alcohol, sweets, salty snacks, trashy magazines, Netflix, whatever) and stay sympathetic but vaguely detached. Don’t take things personally, because the three-year-old freak outs are so about them, not you. (Those kids are working out some STUFF, and if you get wrapped up in it you will never have the strength to wash those gigantic piles of dishes that show up in your sink EVERY SINGLE DAY.) Get some friends who will listen to all your funny-crazy stories and reassure you that you are not insane and that you have not broken your child.

NEWSFLASH: Your three-year-old is already broken. It is entirely possible that only you can see it, because he or she is so funny and so charming and so willfully adorable to the outside world that you think you might be raising the next Sybil.

(It gets better. Sort of. It gets different, surely.)

In sum, this is not an age I miss in my house, but I find other people’s three-year-olds hilarious.

So what advice would you give yourself, in retrospect?

3 half

Changeling #2, at 3 1/2

February Flowers, Resurrected

I just can’t stay away! (See my posts from 2014 for oodles more.)

It’s been a rather wet winter, judging from the number of times AM’s tennis class has been cancelled. But never mind that – it’s February, so when it’s not storming, it’s gorgeous and every hillside and roadside is blooming and lush.

It makes me very happy.

Last week, I shoved the kids into the car and trundled them out to a little patch of nothing. But this tiny mound has sandy soil and is home to a rare iris, the Iris HaArgaman, named after it’s burgundy color (referred to in Exodus 24-28, among other places). This iris is found only on “Iris Hill” in Nes Tziona – where we were – and along the Mediterranean coast near the city of Netanya. My children, of course, know this and were properly gobsmacked by its appearance. (Squealing and pointing! Over a flower! I am so proud.)


The rare and beautiful Iris HaArgaman – its name reflects its rich purple-red-black color.

I was then treated to a lecture about Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Earlier this month, on a quick Friday hike in the northern Negev, we also saw the low-growing and much more common Iris Eretz-Yisrael. But a great gathering of them.


The Iris Eretz-Yisrael, now appearing on a hill near you. (If you’re lucky enough to be here.)

And now that we’re past the Ides of February (the 13th, by the way), we are beginning to see poppy flowers, which are refreshing the reds of the increasingly bedraggled kalanit. (It’s hard to be a national symbol.)


Poppies are just coming into season.

Another spring is hurtling towards us – and it’s going to be busy – so for the moment I’m thrilled to brandish my camera and to go hunting at a slow pace.

Want to hear something shocking? My most popular post ever was written in 2009. That was eons ago. Nobody really cares about my thoughts on Israel, my struggles with immigrant parenting, or what’s happened since I gave up breastfeeding.

So yes, seven years ago, almost five years into my parenting – and breastfeeding – career, I produced a ranty-though-cogent screed about breastfeeding that still attracts more than 10 readers a day.

I find this stunning.

Nobody comments on or links back to this post. The mommy wars have cycled back over this debate many times in the years since, but I must have inadvertently had fantastic SEO to keep getting page views. Good for you, 2009 me – who didn’t even work in marketing!

baby tani

This squishy newborn is almost 10.

Now that I have some emotional distance from breastfeeding (although, to be fair, I don’t really, because one of my best IRL friends has a pretty new and very squishy nursling RIGHT NOW), I am not really encouraged. Women and babies are still unsupported by hospitals, employers, and governments. Formula companies are still backed by the very deep pockets of drug manufacturers and violate the law when it comes to marketing their product.

But in this decades-long debate, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion One: Taking Sides

If you dis breastfeeding, you might be:

  • anti-science

Breastmilk seems to be one of the most studied substances in the world. Why can’t we just leave it alone already? Because artificial milk substitutes keep trying to imitate it, that’s why. That’s how badass this stuff is. All our 21st century science can’t capture that lightning in a jar.

  • anti-woman

Let’s allow women to do something with their bodies that’s not pleasuring a man. (This is so heteronormative I don’t even want to bring it up, but let’s look at the messaging coming out of, say, the United States government or mainstream Hollywood.)

  • have body image issues

Pregnancy and breastfeeding will change a woman’s body in ways both temporary and permanent. One thousand percent. That is difficult to handle, sometimes, for both women and their partners.

If you dis formula feeding, you might be:

  • anti-worker

Shift work without pumping breaks is a real thing. Family “unfriendly” jobs and industries are real things. Countries without paid maternity/family leave are real things (the United States, in particular, stands out here).

glass bottle skull

Nope, not poisonous

  • anti-reality

Families have all sorts of reasons why breastfeeding is not possible – medical issues on the part of the mother or baby, economic pressures, family realities (a widowed father, a two-dad family, a baby being raised by someone other than his or her parents), or other things. Passing your holier-than-thou judgment on these situations doesn’t make you a breastfeeding advocate. Remember that wet-nursing has been a career choice for thousands of years – largely rendered unnecessary by the advent of formula.

  • paternalistic

Really, women can’t make up their minds and need to be told what to do?

Conclusion Two: Check Your Privilege

If you’re busy on the internets vociferously defending your position, this means you are in a privileged position. If you’re dealing with working and pumping breastmilk (like many) OR traded your paying job with people who wear underwear to be an unpaid manager of people who don’t (like many others), you have a certain amount of economic privilege.

I honestly do not know people who have traded one kind of baby milk for another due to being squeezed for money, but it must happen. Sometimes a paycheck or scrimping on childcare is simply more vital than how a baby gets fed.

There’s more.

If you can safely formula feed, it means you have access to clean water or electricity to boil it or money to buy it.

If you can safely breastfeed, it means your partner is on board with it and you are (probably) physically safe.

If you can work and pump, it means that your state or country or employer protects that privilege.

If you can leave your baby with formula and a paid babysitter, nanny, or day care, it means you can afford it. Maybe you’re just breaking even to advance your career, but others who can’t might stay home and breastfeed.

If you have nursing bras, nursing clothes, access to a breastpump, books, and more, it means you have means. Maybe not a lot of means, but possibly good health insurance. Maybe generous friends. All of these are not to be taken for granted.


If you want to formula feed, nobody should stop you.

If you want to breastfeed, even for years, even at night, even in your bed, even in public, even without a nursing cover, even in a place of worship, nobody should stop you.

And we need to take our righteous indignation for what’s “wrong” and use that adrenaline-driven excitement to support parents and families. If the idea of going up against the drug lobby gets your motor running, do that. If you want to call or tweet your congressional reps to demand family leave, do that. (Canadians and Scandinavians can take a moment to bask in their glorious rights.) If you want to help a mom who is working shifts, struggling to pump, or cluster feeding every evening from five until eleven, bring her family some dinner and offer to fold some laundry (I guarantee she has some). If you hear of a financially struggling family that has requested formula, go buy it.

Perhaps I have mellowed in my old age – though admittedly there are still plenty of things that get me riled up. But babies who are being loved and cared for are not something to sneeze at, regardless of how they’re receiving their nutrition.

See other adorable mammals here and here.

(Thanks to Gila for the advice.)

My son, my precociously snarky and sarcastic (read: be careful what you wish for) 9-year-old has joined the ranks of Those Who Blow Off Mom’s Wise Words.

Where parents' best intention hang out during a child's second decade of life.

Where parents’ best intentions hang out during a child’s second decade of life.

Sadly, this was easy for me to recognize because I am a charter member of this cool club.

Which isn’t to say my mom didn’t have good advice. She did! And she still does. But somehow I thought I had to forge my own way.

So when my mom said: “Practice piano before I get home,” I did not.

When she said: “You’ll eventually regret giving up the piano,” I did. (Who thinks about being 30 when they are 12? Nobody, that’s who.)

When she said: “If you’re going to a liberal arts university, you should think about taking a wider range of classes,” I did not. Because who needs to understand economics? (Me, the asshole who thought I did not. Also you. And you.)

And so on.

I was really primed to recognize the advice brush off in my own kids, but I did not expect it to happen quite so soon. But here we are. Age 9-and-a-half.

Both of us ran in the local road race this past Friday. I struggled through a 5K, where I finished but with a rotten time after a hot summer and a dusty September cut deeply into my running times. I took up Pilates in the spring and did it twice a week all summer, which means that my core is fantastic, but it did not do a lot for my running pace. I probably have better posture as I plod along, so that’s good. Because I am old.

He ran 2.5 kilometers, which is 1,000 meters more than his last race (last November). We decided to run these races a couple of weeks ago, and I forced him through a few training runs. I paced him (slower than my own speed), gave him pep talks, and made sure he would be able to finish at the distance he selected. We stretched. We talked about not sprinting. Then on the actual day of the race it had rained overnight, so I gave him EVEN MORE ADVICE about the road conditions and how to cope.

If you're short and limber you have fewer worries about running in wet conditions. Ask me how I know.

If you’re short and limber you have fewer worries about running in wet conditions. Ask me how I know.

Then I had to send him into the chute by himself, surrounded by kids who were mostly in grades 6-12. We – Taxman and I – did not see him in the blur that passed us on the way up the first hill, but we noticed this clump of pounding feet was going really fast. Really, really fast.

We spotted him on his way back down the same street – his red shorts helped make him stand out – and waved frantically.

A few hours later we checked his results, and he had blitzed through this race in 12 minutes and 54 seconds.

(If I had gone at that pace I would be dead.)

Here I was, worried that the extra kilometer would cut into his sprinting jam, and I had tried to shut off his natural instincts in the name of pacing. Foolish me.

But I have a feeling the cult of “bad” advice will continue. I just can’t help myself.

Heavy and Light

Once upon a time, several weeks ago, I started a Facebook thread in a group I belong to. It’s mostly moms, all very smart, thoughtful people. Most of them live in the United States, though there are a sprinkling of us from Elsewhere, or expats, or temporarily assigned abroad.

I mentioned that AM, who is now 9 — “almost 10,” he says, as one does who is nearing one’s half-birthday — has started riding his bike one kilometer to his twice-weekly tennis lessons, thereby allowing me to take Miss M across town for a class that begins at the same time.

tennis class

After-school tennis class, comprised mostly of 4th graders. AM in is the green shirt.

It was meant as an “it gets better” post, to give hope to the people who feel as if they are drowning in the never-ending demands of their tiny despots and the society that expects us to chauffeur them everywhere, while holding down a job and keeping a spotless house. On Sundays, when both my kids have these simultaneous after-school activities, I actually have an nearly an hour TO MYSELF. In the middle of the afternoon! It’s a whole new chapter, let me tell you. (I don’t spend it cleaning. What am I, crazy?)

People mentioned that Israel, in their minds, was an unsafe place, but are wise enough to know that they are under the influence of the photographs and descriptions that make the international media. Suicide bombings, war operations, major riots, be they Palestinian or ultra-Orthodox, make it through, of course (and well as LOOK AT ALL THAT TECH IN TEL AVIV AND ALSO BEACHES WITH HOTTIES), but not wildflowers and cool graffiti.

I described my boring giant suburb, where there are dozens of parks, and horrible traffic during school dropoff and pickup hours, and they roll up the sidewalks at 9:30 at night, but obviously it’s a different experience from an American suburb with the same vibe. So I volunteered to take pictures.

And I did. But then I got busy with holidays and the kids were underfoot for two weeks, and I was trying to work, and the general mess of life took over before I got a chance to post the pictures.

And then Israelis started being attacked. It started with a shocking murder of parents in front of their children, and then within days the entire country was on alert. There have been stabbings, Molotov cocktails, and giant rocks being thrown at cars and busses. The flash point is allegedly the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque and under control of the Waqf, and the fear that Jews will be allowed to visit in larger numbers and pray there (they currently cannot, under threat of arrest), although the Netanyahu government has repeatedly stated that there is no intention of a change to this policy. Regardless, this is being used as justification to rally the hatred of many people, some of whom have literally taken to the streets with knives and rocks and intent to kill.

(NB: It is pretty difficult to obtain a gun here, hence the weapons of choice.)

It is too much to go into the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here. Let’s just say that it goes back much further than the Gaza withdrawal, the Sinai withdrawal, the wars of 1973, 1967, 1956, or 1948, or the Balfour declaration. People of different religions and different (though similar) ethnic backgrounds sharing this space goes back for many generations. Jews have been in the historical record here for more than 3,000 years, so I don’t really like it when we are told to go back to where we came from. (Also note that if you’re talking recently, the Israelis who have come from Arab lands have nowhere to go back to – they are unwelcome in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, north Africa and elsewhere.)

Please note: I am fully aware that many people who live in the Palestinian Authority have difficulties, be they economic or otherwise. Some of these are brought on by their horrifically corrupt governments (Hamas and Fatah), that glorify violence and give payouts to families of terrorists and take away their international aid in order to build more terrorist infrastructure or build luxury palaces in Ramallah or Qatar. Some are brought on by the Boycott, Sanction, & Divestment movement, which alleges to want to help them but instead takes away their jobs. They feel trapped. This is understandable. But it’s not about “settlers,” because we are all settlers to the Palestinian Authority government.

As I pointed out on Facebook, ridding Israel of its Jews would not, I’m guessing, bring a utopian peace to the land, because all those Arab countries that are now empty of their centuries worth of Jewish communities – Aleppo, Damascus, Sanaa, Baghdad, Cairo, and others –  are experiencing civil and religious unrest even now, decades later. Imagine that!

Ok, back to right now. Things are very tense. Even in my boring, “undisputed” (although Arab governments like Iran and the Palestinian Authority, would gladly have it, and me, gone) city there are now checkpoints and beefed up police presence, because we are at no less risk than Tel Aviv, Afula, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva, and all the other previously quiet places that have suffered from vicious attacks lately. (I know, I know, you’re thinking: Where on earth is Afula? It’s a little industrial, mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north of Israel, home to an amazing cafe that we try to stop at every time we take a trip even vaguely in that direction.) And now there are revenge attacks in Jerusalem, Dimona, on the roads. It’s horrible.

So I have been putting of my show of normalcy. (Although, to tell the truth, what is mostly making the news is only when the terrorists are taken down, now with extra slant!) But if this is an intifada, when is the right time to explain to people that I am ok? That we are taking safer roads to Jerusalem, but I still worry about my kids’ teachers, who live beyond the so-called green line? That the idea of pulling up stakes now and deserting the country that would have me under ANY circumstances is just not going to happen?

How about right now? Yes. Right now. Here is a slice of my neighborhood. (And, full disclosure, the next one over.)

The city I live in is in a landing path for Tel Aviv”s Ben Gurion airport. Which is actually in the city of Lod, but Tel Aviv is way more sexy. Sometimes the planes fly very low, and the 747s sound like they are going to land in my backyard.

flight path

This large apartment complex might be an architectural eyesore masquerading as a nod to the Romans (it’s an aquaduct! it’s a plane! it’s terrible!), but it’s a great landmark when giving directions.


This is a fantastic park. Americans might see it as a lawsuit waiting to happen, I don’t know.

high slides

This is a complex of kindergartens for age 5. They feed into the elementary school next door, where my kids attend.


An elementary school with different types of residential buildings rising on the hill beyond. The sign is warning you to go slow because there is a school.


A cute park for smaller kids, in the shadow of three high-rise apartment buildings.


My city’s branch of Yad Sarah, a wonderful organization that loans medical equipment to anyone who needs it, including breastpumps, crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and about a million other things. It has a big volunteer base and services people all over the country.


A synagogue that prays in style of Jews that came from north Africa, mixed with Israeli customs.


A meditative spot that is a memorial for fallen soldiers and residents killed in terror attacks. It is carefully tended and has signs up forbidding dogs and ball playing.

memorial site

I joke that these are the native birds of Modiin. (Cranes, get it?) The city is still under construction and allegedly will keep going until it’s home to 250,000 people. This is shocking to me, because we’re only at 90,000 and it’s already impossible to find a parking place at the mall on Friday morning.

the birds of Modiin

Dinner rush at the city’s best falafel place. That’s Miss M in the middle of the scrum.


Did someone order a ham with his falafel? Nope. Just pickles and hummus and fries.